Everyone who follows video games knows by now that Liberty City, the setting for the hotly-anticipated Grand Theft Auto IV, is an ultra-realistic depiction of New York.
But the Big Apple has been the setting for many a past video game, according to The Bowery Boys:
The difficult part is actually figuring out, in fact, if a game takes place in New York. For instance, Frogger could take place in New York, if the West Side Highway straddled a Hudson River full of logs and turtles. Pac-Man is certainly a metaphoric representation of the Financial District. If Donkey Kong is an homage to King Kong, wouldn’t that mean he’s throwing barrels from the Empire State Building?
…In 1984, anxious Atari and Commodore 64 owners got their hands on a more literal tribute to the city — The Big Apple. In the simple game, a player maneuvers through a traffic free midtown Manhattan… This game looks a bit like a malfunctioning digital watch and was appropriately forgotten.
The Bowery Boys go on to list several old school titles, including Punch Out!!, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project.
The first [game] to make a real attempt at a recognizable New York landscape was probably 1989’s Manhunter: New York, a clunky and mostly unexciting action game set in the post-apocalyptic future of 2002. However it did manage to depict city landmarks in ways that were at least recognizable, if primitive…
The excellent write-up also names games such as Duke Nukem: Zero Hour, Deus Ex, Max Payne and XIII, while noting True Crime: New York City as a turning point for its realistic depiction of NYC. It’s definitely worth a read.